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Board of Directors

  • Tung Bach Ly, Interim Chairman
  • Diana Pei Wu, Ph.D., Board Member
  • Cassandra Tran, Board Member
  • Mike Trong Nguyen, J.D., Secretary
  • Nailah Ricco, J.D., Board Member
  • Mimi-Cristien Nguyen, Board Member
  • Thandor Miller, Board Member
  • Tom Costanza, Board Member


Minh Nguyen        /     Founder & Executive Director

Minh Nguyen is the Founder and Executive Director of VAYLA New Orleans, Board Member of Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadian, Second Vice Chair of the Asian Pacific American Society of New Orleans, and 2013 Inaugural Fellow of the Norman C. Francis Leadership Institute. Since 2006, Minh has dedicated his life to building a new kind of home for New Orleanians, one that honors that right and power of local residents, young and old, to determine the future of their own neighborhoods. As the Executive Director of VAYLA, Minh has dedicated his work to creating space and leveraging resources to build the capacity of youth, their families, and supporting community members to lead and influence policies, practices and procedures within the public education and health sectors. Through his leadership, Minh has successfully brought together African-American, Vietnamese, Latino and Caucasian community members to take collective action and determine and the future outcomes of their community. His long-term advocacy and organizing efforts have invigorated political energy of New Orleanians through uniting residents under the common goals of taking local control over their schools and city governance structures.

Minh graduated from Loyola University New Orleans with a double major in management and marketing. His leadership as a student includes his services as the External Vice President of the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Association (UNAVSA) and the Executive Director of the UNAVSA Fourth Annual North American Vietnamese Student Conference.


Erica Buher     /     Program Director

Erica Buher joined VAYLA in October 2012 as the Youth Development Coordinator. Prior to this, Erica worked as a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate, focusing on foreign relations, homeland security, and defense.  Erica became passionate about social justice as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in African Studies and Political Science.  She also currently serves on the Board of Directors for ATRAVES, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in Barrio Camilo Ortega, an impoverished neighborhood in Managua, Nicaragua.

In this capacity, she supports the Margaret Xuan Dung Fellowship program and VAYLA’s Organizing Training Institute.

Erica’s other passions include Paulo Freire, baked goods, and puppies.


Dianna Hong     /     Administrative Director

English Second Language (ESL) Program
Citizenship Class

Dianna H. Nguyen has lived in New Orleans for the last 39 years. Her family was one of the first Vietnamese families to reside in New Orleans in 1975 after the Vietnam War. She joined VAYLA as an administrator in 2011.
Not only is Dianna a dedicated staff member overseeing the administrative area of VAYLA but she also supports the adult ESL and Citizenship Class.

Dianna is really passionate about the academic success of all our youth. She is very attentive during our after school academic support and often works with teachers and principals to ensure that all our youth are successful in school.


Huong Nguyen     /      Media & Outreach Director

VAYLA’s Media Team
VAYLA’s Social Media + Website
Media Inquiries
Volunteer Opportunities/ Cultural Events
VAYLA Social: Youth Sports Tournament & Entertainment Showcase

Huong Nguyen became a member of VAYLA New Orleans in 2006 and became a staff in 2008. She was born and raised in New Orleans East, Louisiana. She graduated from the University of New Orleans in May 2012, where she majored in Business Marketing.

She is the Founder and Program Coordinator of the Young Womyn’s Leadership Program (YWLP), which seeks to provide a safe space for young womyn that supports the development of healthy coping skills, enhanced self esteem and increases their intellectual, civic, and social skills.  She initiated the first young womyn’s flag football team in New Orleans East.  At VAYLA, Huong is also responsible for VAYLA’s cultural programming, which sustains VAYLA’s mission of cultural enrichment and serves as a mechanism to recruit new members and develop them as leaders.  The coordinator also collaborates with the Administrative Director on VAYLA’s payroll and financial management.

Huong was awarded the 2009 Service Leader/Youth Ally Change Maker Award from the Gulf South Youth Action Corps and she was also the 2nd Runner Up in the 2009 ASPIRE Outstanding Woman of the Year Award. From VAYLA, she received the ‘Most Valuable Player – Womyn’s Flag Football Award’ in July 2009 and the ‘Seeds of Hope Award’ in May 2011.

Huong enjoys sharing her food favorites, pomegranates and homemade kale chips, with the young people.


Leah Effron     /     Youth Development Coordinator

Youth Leadership Summer Program
Family Circle / Young Womyn’s Leaderhip Program/ Youth QUEST
Reproductive Justice Program

Leah oversees educational and health programming at VAYLA. She supports community members in defining and achieving their academic and career goals through one-on-one meetings about resume building and applications, partnerships with universities, and program development within VAYLA. She supports VAYLA’s Peer to Peer Support Programs including Family Circle, Young Womyn’s Leadership Program, Youthquest, and Young Men’s Rising. Leah also directs VAYLA’s Summer Leadership Program, a five-week leadership development and community organizing initiative.

Leah graduated from Tufts University in Massachusetts where she studied Community Health, Child Development, and Leadership Studies. Before VAYLA, Leah worked in school gardens and on farms, as well as with the PACT Project, dedicated to providing supportive services to those with HIV/AIDs.

Leah loves to cook vegetable-filled meals, go for long walks, and be with friends.


Maria / Education Coordinator

ESL Classes
Spanish Translation/Interpretation

Maria was born in Puebla, Mexico and moved to Phoenix, Arizona at the age of 3. Maria has been a member of VAYLA since 2013 and is a mother of 3 beautiful children.

Maria hopes to create change in her Latino community and help community members learn how to speak and write English. She have experienced many situations where the Latino community doesn’t understand and can’t express what they need or feel. She would like to change the situation and create a better understanding environment in schools, jobs, and the healthcare system.

Maria loves to spend time with her kids, watch movies, and learn new things.


Myron Miller / Community Organizer

Reed Renaissance

Myron is a senior at Sarah T. Reed High School in New Orleans East. 

Myron has played a central role in the Raise Your Hand Campaign with the creation of Reed Renaissance, an initiative aimed at keeping Sarah. T. Reed High School open. Myron is dedicated to ensuring that students have a voice in the governance of their school and their city. Myron likes to think of himself as very helpful, hands on, and a motivational speaker. Myron also loves soccer and kickball.

He firmly believes “A good leader shows you how to climb the latter but a great leader shows you what wall to put it on.”


Emmanuel Chavez / Community Organizer

Environmental Justice
Immigration Work

He’s fresher than Will Smith.

Emmanuel is an undocumented youth that has been living in New Orleans for the past 9 years of his life. He became involved with VAYLA in 2012 with YOU2 (youth organizing for unity 2) doing language access work with the school system. Over the years, Emmanuel has grown his leadership skills and is looking to further strengthened the Latino voice in his community, keep fighting for language access and continuing the environmental work that helped create VAYLA.

Aside from fight for social justice and equality, Emmanuel also enjoys spending time with friends, watching movies and anime, playing video games and skating. If you ever need help Emmanuel is sure to help.


Mars Nguyen / Community Organizer

Ride To Success
General Meetings
Reproductive Justice

Mars joined VAYLA as a member in 2012 and became a youth staff in 2015. He was born in Fountain Valley, California but was raised in New Orleans East. He is currently studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of New Orleans.

Mars is a Founder and the Lead Organizer of Ride to Success (RTS), VAYLA’s transportation campaign, which seeks to make the RTA, New Orleans public transit system, more reliable, safe, more efficient, and more accessible. He also works on General Meetings, which makes sure that the members of VAYLA stayed informed of events going on in VAYLA and let the members have a voice in the decision making process. He also supports VAYLA-NO’s Environmental Justice Campaign, Academic Support, Family Circle, and Reproductive Justice Program.

His other interests are playing guitar/piano, breaking/break dancing, playing games, reading books and manga, and watching anime.

Nadia Salazar Sandi / Campaign Coordinator

My name is Nadia and I have been a community organizer and advocate since 2010. I was born and raised in Nuestra Señora de La Paz, Bolivia and left for the U.S. with my family at the age of 11. Being part of a mixed status family and living under constant fear of family separations taught me the importance of my voice and organizing with my community. I am passionate about helping and supporting all communities to stand in solidarity for our families.

I currently am the Campaigns Coordinator at VAYLA but I have previously worked with United We Dream and Identity Youth in MD. Both focused on empowering youth and strategizing around the full liberation of all immigrant communities. I have organized youth in urban areas and farm workers in the tobacco fields; with an understanding that injustice has no borders. All of my work has always focused on the importance of supporting marginalized communities – such as mine. The hunger for justice runs through my veins and I live by the notion of unifying communities to achieve change. I am incredibly passionate about the work and wish to share this passion with others. I am aware of my privilege and try to be as sensitive to issues as possible when it relates to other communities. I am outspoken and enjoy discussions that allow me to learn and grow to be a better support for my community and be a better ally to other communities in the struggle